Mark Wilson/Globe Staff
Thirty days after retired deputy US marshal Leo Rosette launched his rowboat from the Canary Islands in a bid to become the oldest American to row across an ocean alone, he called from the Atlantic this afternoon to say he's feeling pretty good after completing nearly a third of his odyssey.
"I'm out here in the middle of the Atlantic bobbing around," said Rosette, 59, of Marshfield, in a brief interview via satellite telephone, speculating that he was off the coast of Cape Verde, though there was no land in sight. "I feel good. It's more of a mental test, I think, than a physical test.''
Since he departed Jan. 4, along with 30 other boats competing in the Atlantic Rowing Race 2009, Rosette has rowed about 667 nautical miles and has about 2,039 more to go to reach his final destination, the Caribbean island of Antigua.
Rosette said he was happy to be making progress today after six days of bad weather forced him and the other racers to stop rowing, drop their sea anchors, and wait out the storm. A website charting the racers' progress, atlanticrowingrace09.com, calculated that Rosette's 24-by-6-foot boat, Halcyon, was pushed back 29 nautical miles by the rough seas.
"The seas were 25 feet high,'' said Rosette, adding that he stayed in his small cabin and felt like he was inside a clothes washer.
The first few days of his trip, Rosette said he saw a lot of whales and porpoises. A week ago, a freighter was bearing down on him and Rosette said he narrowly averted a collision by radioing the huge ship and warning the crew that his small boat was in its path.
"He was very nice when he saw me, He asked me what I was doing out here,'' said Rosette, adding that he warned the freighter's captain to be on the lookout for other racers.
If Rosette finishes, he would be the fifth and oldest American to accomplish a solo ocean rowing crossing. Ninety-three people worldwide have rowed across an ocean alone, while seven have died trying, according to statistics posted on the Ocean Rowing Society's website. The oldes solo rower to cross an ocean was a 66-year-old Ukranian man, and the oldest American was 57.
This is the second attempt for Rosette, who was forced to quit three days after his initial try in December 2008 because of excruciating stomach pain. Rosette, who was forced to end his 20-year career with the US Marshals Service in August 2007 when he turned 57 -- the mandatory retirement age for deputy marshals -- said he remains determined to prove that he's not too old to achieve great things.
The first time, Rosette set off on his own, but this time joined the race so that he could share the cost of monitoring the ocean crossing with other rowers. Woodvale Challenge, a company in Great Britain that builds boats and organized the race, is monitoring racers via satellite, plotting their daily progress on the website and will launch a rescue mission if the rowers trigger an emergency alarm on their boats.
"I may not get there the fastest, but I'm going to get there,'' said Rosette, speculating that it may take him another 65 days to reach Antigua. "The boat is holding up, so I'm confident with that.''
He added, "I guess it doesn't matter what I feel right now. I'm out in the middle of the Atlantic. I have to get this thing home."
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